Sylvain Biegeleisen: Twilight of a Life

In documentary workshops and film schools all over I have forbidden the participants to use the term ”poetic” talking about films. It’s banal, over-used and what does it really mean? Nevertheless this is the only word to be used for this film, here it does fit perfectly, to summarize a wonderful intimate chamber play featuring mother and son in a room, he the filmmaker, she the 94 old mother, he wants to make a film with. Always in her bed, declared by the doctor to have only a few days more to live – eight months ago!

He tells her at the start that he wants to film her when he comes to visit. They agree that it should not be about the past, it should be emotional – that will sell she says. ”Je parle de la vie, pas de la mort”. And emotional it is, long time ago that I have watched a film with a smile on my face the whole way through and a tear in my eyes. What an intelligent, caring, positive 94 year old woman, enjoying the twilight of a life, most of the time clear in her head, sometimes forgetting that Sylvain is her son or where she is. This is how Sylvain wants to remember her and wants us the viewers to see her.

Biegeleisen brings along his guitar, he sings Jacques Brel chansons, he dares to put images of autumn leaves in a forest to accompany, and he dares to give – in short sequences – colours to them in a film that otherwise stays with black & white accentuating the beauty of the room with shadows on the wall.

AND the beauty of caressing hands. ”Caressing is a language”, she says, and the camera follows up on this through the film with close ups of their hands together or her hands in the air. Pure beauty!

She enjoys a cigarette and some potatoes that are a bit burned, reflects on life, ”waiting we are our whole life, but for what”, she says.

There is so much you can take from that film into your own life. Long Live Life! And poetic cinema!

Belgium, Israel, 2015, 70 mins.b/w for festivals and theatres, 52 colour for television.

Distribution: Cat & Docs, France

World Premiere & Opening film at Visions du Réel, Nyon April 17.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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